Four years ago, he really didn't want to leave. And if you believe what GM John Schuerholz had in his book, Tom Glavine really didn't want to go to the New York Mets. But he did, and it made a lot of Braves' fans very upset at the veteran left-hander.
But now his contract with the Mets is coming to an end, and with Glavine saying he either will return to New York or come back home to Atlanta next season, the issue is an important one. Should the Braves bring back the face that truly represented the change from a cellar dweller to perennial contender?
The year was 1987. The Braves were finishing another lackluster season. But a young lefty from Massachusetts was called up in August to face the Astros in the Houston Astrodome. Tom Glavine was just a baby; he looked like he had shaved maybe once or twice in his life. His results were not great, and even worse the next season, but if you knew baseball you had to know this kid had potential.
Then in 1991 everything clicked. Glavine was magical. The Braves' second half was magical. And that year started an odyssey that you would have thought would never end. But it did, when agents and money and all the things that make people cringe in baseball took over.
Glavine wanted to pitch the rest of his career in Atlanta, and after several tumultuous negotiating sessions with then-Team President Stan Kasten, Glavine's agent agreed to a deal with the Mets. According to Schuerholz, Bobby Cox called him up and said that Glavine had called him saying he had made a mistake. Schuerholz then went over to Glavine's house, and after a teary-eyed filled meeting, that was more personal than professional, Schuerholz left with the feeling that Glavine was returning to Atlanta.
But the next morning, according to Schuerholz, Glavine's agent called him and cursed him out for the impromptu meeting. Schuerholz was only trying to help Glavine, who was obviously battling with his decision to leave the team he had only played for. But in the phone call, Schuerholz knew Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton, had decided his client would no longer be a Brave.
And it should be pointed out that when Glavine learned Schuerholz had shared this story in his book, he was very upset.
The thought of Glavine in a Met uniform sickened most fans, and even more so Bobby Cox. But Glavine played his four years with the Mets, and now, as they begin their first LCS with him tonight against the Cardinals, he's got to have his future still in mind.
Glavine still lives in Atlanta, and he said earlier this summer that he will either go back to the Mets or play again with the Braves. But will the Braves want him back? Well, before that is answered, you have to remember that the Mets still have the option to bring him back next season.
There is a mutual option, with the Mets owing Glavine $14 million if they pick up their side of the deal. Glavine can come back for $8.5 million. Now on the surface you would not think the Mets would want to pay this much to a soon-to-be forty-one year-old pitcher that had an injury scare this past summer. But the loss of Pedro Martinez changes things.
The Mets' ace will be out until next July or August, and combine that with the pending free agency of Steve Trachsel and Orlando Hernandez, and the Mets have a shaky situation next season for the rotation. And what if Glavine helps the Mets to the World Series? They'd be crucified in the New York papers for not bringing Glavine back.
It just doesn't seem that they can let Glavine go. Even though $14 million is too much, they have too many holes in their rotation to not bring him back. He may not be the ‘old' Tom Glavine, but he can provide them with 200 innings next season if he is healthy. And while it is a big ‘if,' they might have no choice but to risk that than to not have at least someone in their rotation next season that might give them some significant innings.
Now if the Mets do not pick up his option, would the Braves even want him back? Well, here are a few theories.
The mess created with Schuerholz's book could possibly be rectified by bringing Glavine back. Schuerholz didn't want to lose him a few years ago, and you know he did not enjoy the public scrutiny of making one of the most popular Braves ever upset at relaying that story.
But the most appealing point of a Glavine return is to watch him win his 300th game in an Atlanta uniform. He's currently at 290, ten away from the magic number. After watching Greg Maddux win his 300th in a Cubs' uniform, you wonder if Schuerholz would prefer to have Glavine back to have him achieve history with a tomahawk across his chest.
The fans are going to be split on the issue. Some are still ticked off he signed with the hated Mets, while others would not prefer him to come back home. And some others may still have resentment from the strike situation twelve years ago. Plus, even though Glavine is Glavine, you will find that many fans prefer the team acquire a younger pitcher to improve the rotation and worry about the long-term more than bringing back a former hero.
Bobby Cox never wanted Glavine (or Maddux for that matter) to leave, so his desire to have Glavine back may enter into the equation. But with Schuerholz having to make critical decisions for the future this winter, the decision to bring back Glavine cannot interfere with the long-term plan. If the simple desire is to see Glavine and John Smoltz have one last hurrah so they can go out together, then maybe that'll also be a factor.
If the Braves think Glavine can help its rotation and win ballgames, then he may be an option. But again, the Mets have to make the first move. And it is an expensive decision.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.
10. Will the Braves bring Tom Glavine back
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